Thursday, December 24, 2009

Year in Review

Can't let a year, much less a decade, go by without a list.

Posted By on Thu, Dec 24, 2009 at 4:00 AM

It was a good year for doing more with less.

Think yoga, sliders, 401(k) accounts, blogs, the airlines, Starbucks, and interim mayors. Also Snuggies, Crocs, and 64-calorie beer, for which there will be special corners in hell.

Think "Hitler's Take on LSU" on YouTube, Lil Rounds and Alexis Grace on American Idol, Ole Miss running back Dexter McCluster (5'9" and 170 pounds) running wild against Tennessee, and the Grizzlies minus Allen Iverson.

Think advertising. Big corporations and the creative teams at their agencies spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on ads for the Super Bowl every year. The Doritos "crystal ball" ad, chosen as one of the best of the lot, created by a pair of thirtysomething brothers, cost just under $2,000.

Think books and movies. Elmore Leonard advises would-be authors to leave out the parts readers skip. Cormac McCarthy, former East Tennesseean, used to write long books like Suttree and All the Pretty Horses with long sentences and paragraphs. His last two novels, No Country for Old Men and The Road, are short books with short sentences and utterances that are barely sentences at all. Both have been made into major movies.

There were also those who managed to do less with more.

Think big banks, the stimulus, Oprah, Tiger Woods, John "0 for 2008" Calipari, one and done, the movie adaptation of Where the Wild Things Are, Congress and health care, Willie Herenton, Michael Jackson, another season of 24, Yahoo, and Tommy West's upcoming prepaid retirement.

Overton Square has some popular restaurants and a nice movie theater and lots of passionate supporters but can't get its act together. Where were the satirical publication The Onion and Christian Lander and his blog "Stuff White People Like" when city councilman Shea Flinn convened a hearing on what to do about the square?

As the Onionists might have written it, the largest ethnic minority group in Memphis, wearing colorful ethnic designer coats and seasonal footwear from Patagonia and L.L. Bean, rallied at City Hall to demand that attention be paid to the need for an ethnic market such Trader Joe's with exotic herbs and wines as well as boutique shoppes in historically significant buildings and parking areas restricted to Subaru Outbacks, bicycles, and skateboards.

Riverfront development and Beale Street Landing stalled as prices went up. The debate between pro-development types and preservationists is well and good, but holding future faceoffs in, say, the Raleigh Springs Mall or Fox Meadows might shed a different light on things.

And some are doing more with more. Gadflys, comedians, and commenters in the blogosphere have had a field day with the pompous and pretentious. The bane of our public boards is conformity and bluff collegiality, which stifles dissent. I sort of miss Carol Chumney and John Vergos on the Memphis City Council and Walter Bailey on the Shelby County Commission. Bash public officials all you want, but at least they own up to their comments and do battle face to face.

Let's hear it for impolitic questions that make the powerful roll their eyes and gnash their teeth or grin and bear it. For years, a tall, plainspoken gentleman dressed in suspenders came to the FedEx annual stockholders meeting to voice his displeasure to Fred Smith. Sometimes the questions were off the wall, and once in a while they were pretty good. As a shareholder, he never got his way, but he always got his say. And I bet he went home happy.

And some prospered through thick and thin and thinner. A decade ago, White Station High School couldn't win a football game but was a basketball and academic powerhouse. New coaches and recruiting changed that, and this year White Station added a state football championship. So did MUS in the private sector, thanks to an infusion of black athletes at skill positions. Behold the emergence of the super schools.

And the super churches. Bellevue Baptist and Hope Presbyterian, among others, combine inner-city outreach with suburban megaplexes offering first-rate musicians performing on a concert stage, spiritual sustenance, motivation, a fitness center, outdoor team sports, adult education, and singles groups.

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